Plagued by inconsistency before the All-Star break, Hamels looks to continue his strong start to the second half in a matchup with Haren—the NL ERA leader — and the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
Hamels went 14-10 with a 3.09 ERA last season to help Philadelphia (57-40) win its second consecutive NL East title. In the playoffs, he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts—all Phillies wins—as the club won their first World Series title since 1980.
The left-handed ace, however, hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations in 2009. After struggling through a nagging elbow injury in spring training, Hamels (6-5, 4.66 ERA) had an up-and-down first half, finishing with eight quality starts in 17 outings.
Hamels has been more impressive in his first two games since the break, posting a 3.00 ERA in two Philadelphia wins. He held San Diego to three runs and four hits in seven innings of a 9-4 victory Thursday.
“I try to go out there and put up good, quality starts,” he said. “If I keep trying, I will be able to work it out. It’s been a helpful lesson. It’s been a realization that the game isn’t easy.”
Manager Charlie Manuel said he’s encouraged that Hamels’ recent success is an indicator he’s reclaiming his 2008 form.
“He’s getting there,” Manuel told the Phillies’ official Web site. “He’s getting close.”
While Hamels could be rounding into shape, Haren (10-5, 2.14) has surpassed all expectations from the start of the season. He leads the majors in opponents’ batting average (.194), and he’s the only Diamondbacks starter with a winning record. The team’s other starters have combined to go 18-37.
Haren, who was 16-8 with a 3.33 ERA in his first season with the Diamondbacks in 2008, had held opponents to two earned runs or fewer in 10 straight starts before giving up four in five innings Thursday. Arizona (43-57) still rallied for an 11-4 victory over Pittsburgh, improving to 8-1 in games started by Haren since June 7.
Haren is 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two career starts against Philadelphia, which he hasn’t faced since 2003. Hamels is 1-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts against Arizona.
Hamels will take the mound hoping to improve the Phillies’ remarkable record on the road. The club has improved to 30-15 outside Philadelphia with four straight road wins, including a 6-2 victory in the series opener Monday night. Ryan Howard(notes) hit a two-run homer, and the Phillies stretched their lead in the NL East to a season-high seven games over Atlanta and Florida, which were idle.
The Diamondbacks allowed two runs to score by botching easy double plays in the opener. They have 83 errors, second-most in the majors. That’s more than twice as many as the Phillies, whose 40 errors are the second-fewest in baseball.
“In order to be a good team, you’ve got to catch the ball,” Manuel said.